Prompt: #13: If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down, these women together ought to be able to turn it right side up again.--Sojourner Truth (1797 – November 26, 1883), African-American abolitionist, women's rights activist, advocate for prison reform, anti-capital punishment activist, lecturer and saint of the Episcopal Church.
Summary: The battle isn't over just because they died on the field. Ellen and Jo find some allies in Heaven that they knew while they were alive and some that they didn't, and together they're the only ones who can make things right.
Author's Notes: Written as a series of double-drabbles for extra fun. Thanks to dugindeep and kasman for beta reading. The title is from T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets: "After the kingfisher's wing/Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still/At the still point of the turning world."
The first thing Jo noticed was that it didn’t hurt anymore.
The second thing she noticed was that her mother was still holding her, cradled like a child in rough flannel and denim, but without the smells of gasoline and fear and copper-bright blood that were the last things she remembered.
"Mom?" Jo asked, struggling to sit up.
Ellen resisted for a moment, but then she let Jo rise. "Where are we?" Ellen muttered in a voice raspier than usual.
Jo looked around, blinking in confusion. She could remember the overwhelming pain in her side, and oh God, Dean saying goodbye to her and looking like this was all his fault, and then her mother staying with her to blow the hellhounds back to where they came from – her stupid, self-sacrificing mother. Had it all been for nothing? "Didn’t it go off? The bomb?"
"Oh, it went off, all right," Ellen muttered, and the certainty in her voice made Jo shiver.
The scratched wooden floor and the metal-runged stools on either side of them were all too familiar, the wood against their backs as solid and familiar as the roof overhead. "Mom, is this—"
"Let’s get this party started!"
Initially, Ellen was chagrined to find that her Heaven was apparently the Roadhouse. But one familiar face after another drifted in, and when Bill stood before her, whole and smiling, she was more than all right with it.
Although Ash had rigged up the TV to watch what was happening on Earth, there was still catching up to do. Ellen and Jo filled in the blanks of the apocalyptic threat, and they started regularly tuning to what Ash called the Sam-‘n’-Dean channel.
Weeks later, an officious-looking angel with a receding hairline and a lion’s growl darkened their door to tell them visitors were coming. He told them that all but of two of them were to leave, and he told them what they were to say.
When he was done, Ellen was shaking with fury. "No," she barked. "We will not do that to those boys. After what they’ve done for us—"
"They put you here," Zachariah returned. Then his gaze sharpened. "And I can put you somewhere else, Ellen. Somewhere very far away."
Later, Jo whispered, "I thought Heaven meant no more fear," and Ellen held her tighter, cursing silently that even here, there was apparently no peace.
Pamela was no fool.
She did as Zachariah ordered, taking it way over the top to signal Sam and Dean that it was a load of bullcrap. After Zachariah oozed away and their compatriots returned, she helped Ash to build an angel jammer. When it was done, they gathered together and strategized.
Hours later, they had nothing. They held no power compared to the angels, and if Ash had overheard correctly – that the angels wanted the end of the world – what could they do?
Finally, Pamela slapped her hand down on the table, and they all went quiet. "Y’all probably know I didn’t want to be here at first. I was pissed at those two boys." She saw Ellen shift in her seat—and oh, it was still a blessing to see. "I know that it wasn’t the Winchesters’ fault," she added. "And now they need our help."
"How?" Jo asked.
There was silence. Then Ellen answered, "This is the Roadhouse. We can make it the center again."
"The center of the Resistance?" Ash drawled.
Pamela grinned at him and got a smirk in return. It was dangerous and maybe even foolish. But it was the right thing to do.
She wandered alone, still feeling unclean, even in Heaven. Encountering others and exchanging stories, she wasn’t surprised to hear that Sam Winchester was at the vortex of a storm that could end the world. Rumors flew about the Winchesters visiting Heaven and the short-lived exultation of the angels before Dean denied them. She smirked at the picture that made.
It was after the idea surfaced that the angels might not get what they wanted that she heard about the Roadhouse. She finally found the rough, brightly-lit bar, and when she saw the young, blonde bartender, she gasped.
"Do I know you?" the girl asked. Jo, she thought.
She took a deep breath. If she wanted these people to trust her, she had to go first. "My name is Meg Masters."
Jo’s eyes widened in recognition. Meg nodded anyway. "The same demon possessed me and Sam."
"Why are you here?" an older woman asked, suddenly behind Jo.
Meg raised her chin. "I want to help. I heard this was the place."
"You’re not a hunter."
"I could be."
"Mom," Jo said with a hand on the woman's arm. She eyed Meg carefully and then extended one hand. "Welcome to the Roadhouse."
Mary had been hesitant to approach at first. Having John with her was still too new, too precious. She was terrified that being around hunters would lead to disaster. Zachariah had already tainted this place enough. But events were happening whether she wanted them to or not, and her boys were at the center.
The Resistance had dispersed into multiple camps to avoid having too many people concentrated in one place. They approached surreptitiously, one more couple who had heard of the human souls resisting the apocalypse. Mary didn't want to trade on their identity, but it only took days before word spread that the Winchesters' parents were around, and soon they were being escorted to the Roadhouse.
It wasn't necessarily a joyous reunion for John, but Mary saw him finally put some ghosts to rest with Bill and Ellen. She was astonished at how important her boys had been to so many people, and proud of how much they were loved.
But despite their friends' support and John's, she felt horribly alone as they watched the final-battle-that-wasn't.
Love and stubbornness saved the world—and finished the process Mary had begun so many years ago of damning her youngest son.
She had been in one of the outer Resistance encampments, her heart shattering as she watched Sam lose himself to save the world. She knew she couldn't stand by now as the angels tried to obliterate what he'd done.
No one knew her by sight, but when she explained her connection to Sam, they brought her right to the center. It was a rough-looking bar like she never would have gone into on Earth, though by now, she knew that Sam and his brother spent their lives in places like this.
She didn't expect to recognize anyone, but the blonde in the far corner looked familiar. By the time she remembered the creased photo in Sam's wallet, the woman had risen, hand over her mouth.
Mary Winchester said in the suddenly quiet bar, "Jessica?"
Jessica didn't know how Sam's mother knew her name, but a moment later she was in a warm embrace. She saw Sam in both of his parents: the melancholy in John's eyes, the compassion in Mary's.
"You should have been our daughter-in-law," Mary murmured sadly.
Jessica blinked furiously. No tears in heaven, right? "How can we save him?"
The way their faces crumpled was her answer.
Heaven was still nothing like Jo had expected. Especially the civil war.
After a long argument, the Roadhouse crew elected to lay low and do recon. Despite Jo's fear that Sam's sacrifice would be for nothing if they failed to act, the more experienced hunters agreed that in their weak position, the human souls would only become angel targets if they came forward.
Instead, they sheltered souls who wanted no part of the battles. Ash had to expand his communications network to keep in touch with all of the outposts, and their web of information grew daily.
When the first rumors about Castiel reached them, Jo couldn't believe it. Yes, this was a fight he had to win, but to draw on them like raw material and not human souls, to create more souls for energy, was going too far.
That had been a rough few days, apparently: Jo didn't remember a thing, but she and some of their number had disappeared, while others like Ellen popped up back on Earth and a host of strangers took their place. Just as abruptly, they were all back, and that was when they decided something had to change.
The question was: what?
It was strange how things came together, Pamela thought. All of these people here because of the Winchester boys—here as in dead, and here as in the Roadhouse. They'd stayed under the angels' radar since Zachariah, literally beneath notice, and as frustrating as it might be to hide, at least they were alive. Or whatever.
She had been one of the first to sense something wasn't right, her abilities apparently retained on this side of the veil. Maybe it was because she'd seen Castiel's true form, but there was a thin thread of connection she could use to check on him.
Every time she did, it got worse.
Ash started compiling data from field scouts and other psychics, and they figured out what Castiel was doing too late to stop him. They watched his transformation with the same horror as the boys and Bobby did. Pamela hadn't felt so helpless since that awful night when she heard a demon in the room and knew she was going to die.
They scattered after that, not knowing how far-ranging the new Castiel's senses were. The core group stayed in the Roadhouse, trusting Ash's enhanced jamming device, wondering what could happen next.
"It's a question of balance," John argued. "There's too much power concentrated in him and a vacuum in Purgatory. It's not safe."
"For who?" Bill returned. "You think he can blow up Heaven?"
"I think we have no idea." John leaned over the bar. "But we can't risk it."
Ellen sighed. The debate had been raging for weeks. Below, the Winchesters and Bobby had escaped Castiel's wrath, largely because of the purge he had going on up here. She didn't want to know what would happen if the new God overheard souls speaking out against him. Damn, it was hard to have this place so empty again, even if it was for their safety.
"What can we do, John?" Bill threw up his hands. "We couldn't stop him before. We sure as hell can't now."
"I might have something."
They all looked over at Ash. Meg Masters had turned out to be a computer whiz, or at least able to hold conversations with Ash, and she'd been parked next to him for weeks. She was biting her lip now, staring at the screen.
"Well?" Ellen demanded.
She didn't know Ash could look so serious. "You're not going to like it."
Meg didn't really know these people, even after a year among them. That made it easier for her to be the one to break the news.
When Ash started speaking, she put her hand over his, and he went silent. "From what we've been able to model," she started, "he can't contain all of the energy of the souls without an anchor back in Purgatory." They always avoided speaking Castiel's name, which occasionally gave Meg the urge to call him Voldemort.
"What kind of anchor?" John asked.
"We think Balthazar would have set it. And he values—valued—family and blood." Her gaze skittered away, painfully aware of what they'd all seen Sam almost do to stay soulless.
Ellen cleared her throat. "What does that mean?"
"It means the spell has to be cast by two people who once shared the same blood. Literally." Meg looked to Jo and back. "A mother and child."
Ellen's face went white. Next to her, Jo also paled.
"It's a lot easier to access Purgatory from here than Earth." Ash apologetically shrugged. "Not like we can fax the instructions down there, anyway."
"You won't be alone," Meg promised, knowing the value of those words.
There were five of them who went, and Jessica lost.
"You're not a hunter," Ellen frowned.
"But I can help," she pleaded.
"If something goes wrong…" John sighed. "The Harvelles are there for the spell. We're there because of our boys. But with you, it might make him wonder how many people are involved. The fewer, the better."
"We need an anchor of our own." Mary took Jessica's shaking hands in her strong ones. "You're our family here. Ash can show you what to do, but we need someone to keep the door open for us. Can you do that?"
Jessica felt like a television heroine being told to wait in the car while the heroes saved the day, but she'd sworn to do anything she could to help. The views they'd had of Sam and his battered psyche were heartbreaking, and Dean was too distracted keeping them both hidden from Cas to tend to his brother's mental wounds. "I can," she whispered.
Mary squeezed her hands. "Good girl. We'll be back soon."
As Jessica watched them go, she felt the same sick lurch in her stomach as when Sam had headed off with Dean from their Palo Alto apartment.
It felt familiar, instinctual, even though she'd never hunted with John. Mary knew they had each others' backs and the Harvelles'. They communicated wordlessly like they'd been hunting together forever.
This was the part of a hunt she'd always hated, though: entering half-blind, unsure what to expect, but knowing every nerve had to be alert. It didn't help that they were weaponless; what could do any good anyway?
Mary concentrated on Bill's footfalls in the lead, Ellen and Jo close behind. She wouldn't look at the strange grey mist, wouldn’t feel the cold clamminess of it on her arms. She would listen to John's quiet breaths behind her as Ellen guided them to where they had to go. If there was any "where" in this place, anyway.
They heard it before they saw it: a high, thin sound, like a vibrating wire pulled too tight. The faintest glow pierced the greyness, and they followed it to a narrow column of light, emanating somewhere below them and rising overhead and out of sight.
Mary laid a quick hand on Ellen's shoulder before taking her post with Bill and John: backs to the light, all their senses aimed out into the nothingness.
Jo's hands were slightly shaking as she marked her mother's forehead with ashes and then her own. They were steady by the time she drew the brass knife across their arms in turn. The crimson drops disappeared into the mist beneath their feet, and the thin column of light grew brighter.
Ellen gave her a reassuring smile and started to softly chant. Jo took it up half a beat behind, as they had practiced, and she thought idiotically of singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" in rounds as a child. There was nothing that said she couldn't grab her mother's hand, and she did, both of them standing taller with the contact.
"He's coming!" Mary warned, and Jo bit back her fear and continued the rite. There was no hurrying it, no skipping ahead to the ending. But the light looked thicker somehow, like there was something in it besides light, and Jo's heart lifted as she realized it was working. They were drawing the souls back into Purgatory, draining them from their unlawful owner, and hopefully draining him in the process without exploding the link.
"Mary!" John said sharply, and Jo started to turn, fear rising in her throat.
Ellen grabbed her daughter's arm to pull her back. They couldn't falter now: only one more round and the rite would be done. If they could just hold on…
The cut on her forearm brushed against Jo's, and the light flared painfully bright. The faint, high-pitched sound they'd heard suddenly became the cacophonous shrieking of millions of trapped souls, their voices battering away at the column linking them to their captor. Mary screamed at the noise, and Ellen wavered. But Bill's hand was steady on her back, and she clutched Jo's hand tighter and kept going.
It was like shouting in a hurricane, but Ellen felt her mouth shaping the words as the light pounded more brightly against her closed lids. Then she felt a presence around them, a vast, furious presence, and she thought, This is it, we're too late, I'm so sorry…
Then there was another presence, or presences, and Ellen's eyes flew open. It was the souls they had already released: vampires and werewolves and skinwalkers and the things all five of them had spent their lives hunting, now allies as they fended off Castiel to give the humans time to finish.
She couldn't let them down.
In the Roadhouse, they knew the instant it happened.
The clap of thunder was louder than any Pamela had ever heard, rattling her bones and shaking the walls. Meg grabbed Ash's arm, and they saw the same dread reflected in all their faces.
Then something passed through her, like a long-held tension loosening. And goddamn if there weren't birds chirping outside the windows, like a storm had passed.
"Holy shit," Pamela breathed out. She'd stopped reflexively flinching when she swore, but it still felt weird sometimes.
"I think they did it," Meg added.
"Guys!" Jessica was at the back door, where they'd set the spell to create their entrance to Purgatory. "Help!"
They dashed over to see a horde of creatures approaching through the mist: things that looked half-human, some not human at all, and Pamela froze. Oh God, what have we done?
Then she felt something else coming, and she held up a hand. "Wait."
Ash looked at her as if she was crazy, but then the ranks of creatures parted for the five humans coming through, and they realized it wasn't an invasion. It was an honor guard.
"Holy shit," Pamela said again before breaking into a grin.
Life went on, or to be more accurate, afterlife went on.
Most of them stopped watching the Sam-'n-Dean channel; retired hunters were fairly boring. Not that John and Mary found them dull, but Meg could understand that.
The Roadhouse was no longer a refuge, at least in the sense of sheltering a resistance. It was still a shelter for new arrivals who knew what lived in the shadows on Earth. It was a place to be among friends.
The new arrivals weren't as frequent as they had been, or at least they didn't arrive due to supernatural causes so much anymore. Ash's theory was that the non-humans of the world had settled on a truce as payment for their dead brethren being released from captivity. Meg had come to realize that Ash had lots of interesting theories.
"It's one of his charms," she tried to explain to Jo. Jo had rolled her eyes and said she didn't want to hear about Ash's charms.
It was a strange kind of family she'd ended up with, but they were happy in their own way, and Meg took no small amount of pride in being part of it.
Who needed eternal rest, anyway?